As this is my first ever guest post for Eight Ounce, I thought it would be wise to give a little introduction so y’all know whose words you're reading. My name is Kathleen and I am a Lead Roaster in Calgary, AB. My roasting portfolio currently includes Monogram, Coffee Concept, and a handful of others who produce under their own labels through SchoolHouse Roasting Collaborative. While I love roasting coffee, my real passion is found in the community aspect. I light up when I get to help others enjoy and understand our favourite brown drink on deeper levels. I also believe that any sphere of influence gives us opportunities to use our passions to make the world a better place. Having said all that, I’d like to take a few moments to paint the background for a new, massive, community-fuelled project I’m about to launch: Handbrew Publication.
Increasingly, my social media feed has had more awareness of the issues facing coffee farmers. Most of it has to do with industry friends, incredible individuals that I’ve had the privilege of working alongside at various points in my coffee roasting career, raising the problems as a rally cry. I’ve seen roasteries increasingly get on board with projects to help support farms beyond buying their green coffee. Yet, it also has to do with rising global awareness. Living in the age of information, one cannot help but be influenced by struggles on the other side of the world. We feel the tug of humanity when a natural disaster hits a foreign country, when a drought or famine knocks out a food or commodity supply, when a global pandemic changes the way the world interacts internationally.
I have no doubt that COVID-19 is going down in the history books. We are only beginning to see glimpses of how the impact of the past year is going to ripple and echo through this decade and beyond.
Sweeping panoramic views of a coffee farm in Nyamigoye Parish, Uganda
A Now Africa Initiative team of Lead Farmers training on site in Nyamigoye, Uganda
Honestly, the best thing to do is to support your local roasters as well as you are financially able. Choose roasters who are transparent about the farms they support, who are open about how they handle their green purchasing, and shy away from the mega-roasters who have no concern for anything other than profit. I guarantee you’ll be able to find a coffee you love from a roaster who cares not only about their people here in Canada but also their farmers worldwide. (If you don’t have a local roaster, Eight Ounce stocks a great selection of incredible roasters!)
Beyond that, there are some amazing movements to lend support to coffee farmers, the backbone of the industry. I’ve been working on one myself.
Lead Farmers celebrating their graduation from the NAI program in Uganda
Enter Handbrew Publication. This project is the intersection of multiple passions: learning and growing in hand brew methods, making space for others to gain recognition, growing awareness of issues that face the industry, and giving back to those who are arguably most in need of support. The publication itself is a collection of some of the best coffee brew recipes from industry professionals all over the world, augmented with articles and beautiful photography. It is an opportunity to try never-seen-before recipes used by baristas during a variety of coffee competitions, bringing wisdom from Canada’s top three 2020 barista champions and beyond into your home, and learn from their techniques to make better coffee yourself. Each contributor wrote up a mini bio so you can be introduced to their career in the specialty coffee industry. And some of them asked if they could write articles instead, hoping to add some narrative to the mix. I’ve honestly been blown away by the support and generosity shown me by those who have been part of this project.
By this point, I imagine you’re wondering what this has to do with coffee farmers and their woes. Well, it’s simple. 100% of the profit from the sales of Handbrew Publication is going to our friends at The Chain Collaborative. Founded and run by Nora Burkey, TCC is an organization committed to supporting leaders already living and working in coffee communities, giving them the resources and support they need to create change. Rather than deciding from an outside perspective what would be best, they empower local individuals to bring their dreams to life. The grassroot nature of these movements is what brings lasting and sustainable change to the coffee growing regions they work with.
Julies Mbabazi, proudly showing off a heavy laden branch of ripe coffee cherries, Nyamigoye, Uganda
After sharing my initial project idea with Nora, I asked about coffee mills (one of the biggest projects I was aware of, just because I love to dream big and work for a lasting legacy); it turned out, one of TCC’s partners, Now Africa Initiative, was keen to build a mill in Nyamigoye Parish, Uganda. Western Uganda has the least access to coffee mills. Having no infrastructure of their own, the coffee farmers have no choice but to send their coffee to whatever cooperative or washing station is closest, and are very likely to receive less pay for their increased efforts. Their coffee lots are not given the opportunity to be processed as micro lots or even a local cooperative lot. This immediately decreases the value of their work.
With your help, Handbrew Publication is going to do something to change that. All of the money that is raised for TCC is going directly to the mill building project in Nyamigoye.
A storage facility built by NAI with the financial support of TCC in Uganda
Fellow Mighty Small Glass Carafe Clear bringing the heat with a coffee wave
From beginning to end, the community impact has been the vision of Handbrew Publication. When we share recipes, when we learn from others, the coffee in our mugs improves. And when we support our coffee farmers, the coffee in the broader community’s mugs also improves. Reach for your copy of Handbrew, and reach beyond your own mug.
Pressing an Aeropress on the cover of Handbrew Publication
The Kickstarter campaign is very close to launching and you'll want to be on top of the release if you're keen for some exclusive merchandise. Check out handbrewpublication.ca to subscribe and be the first to know and support this project.